Karl Rove is promising to defy the subpoena issued by John Conyers — citing instructions from Bush lawyers shortly before the end of the Administration. The statement may indicate that President Bush is preparing for a novel fight: asserting executive privilege against the position of the sitting president (who would presumably support Congress in this matter). In the interview, Rove compares himself to the Great White Whale in Moby Dick.
Appearing on O’Reilly this week, Rove had the following exchange:
Rove: I have been directed, again on January 16, by the outgoing president’s legal counsel, not to respond to a subpoena, exerting privilege on behalf of the former president and his close aides.
O’Reilly: So you’re not even going to show?
Rove: No, and —
O’Reilly: What if they hold you in contempt of Congress?
Rove: Look, this issue is — let’s step back for a minute. This issue of whether or not I should show up — I’ve never exerted any personal privilege, I’ve never said I have a personal right not to show up.
O’Reilly: No, but you’re a counselor to the president, it’s executive — I got all that. But let’s go beyond the argument. I know your argument. Say Conyers says Mr. Rove is in contempt of Congress. What happens then?
Rove: Well, look, this issue is before the United States Circuit Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. Rep. Conyers could have waited until they resolved the issue one way or the other, gave guidance to him and gave guidance to the former president and to the current president. But instead, he decided to go forward with this — I don’t know if I want to call it a witch hunt, I don’t think of myself as a witch, but I’m certain — this is a guy who went to the cloak room and said, ‘Somebody has to get his –‘ and then filled in a crude way to describe my posterior. He’s sort of like Captain Ahab and I’m the whale.
This could be extremely interesting. While Obama appears (again) eager to avoid a fight over such issues, Conyers to pushing ahead. It will force Obama to take a side. If he supports Conyers, he would waive any executive privilege claims. This would leave Bush as asserting the privilege while the current president sees no need to protect the information. This is precisely the plan that Bush lawyers have clearly discussed with Rove, who noted ” “It’s generally agreed that former presidents retain executive privilege as to matters occurring during their term. We’ll solicit the views of the new White House counsel and, if there is a disagreement, assume that the matter will be resolved among the courts, the president and the former president.”
It would also put pressure on Eric Holder to lift the bar on the submission of the criminal contempt charge to a grand jury.
For John Conyers, I suggest that he explain the reason why he has chosen to go forward to force this testimony. Here is the relevant quote:
Captain Ahab: Speak not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. Look ye, Starbuck, all visible objects are but as pasteboard masks. Some inscrutable yet reasoning thing puts forth the molding of their features. The white whale tasks me; he heaps me. Yet he is but a mask. ‘Tis the thing behind the mask I chiefly hate; the malignant thing that has plagued mankind since time began; the thing that maws and mutilates our race, not killing us outright but letting us live on, with half a heart and half a lung.
The “malignant thing that has plagued mankind” is scheduled to appear in the House Judiciary next week or facing a new harpooning by a criminal contempt sanction.
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